If You Can’t Trust a Land Trust… Part 2
East Granby Land Trust, East Granby
Ian Clarke Preserve (Formerly Newgate Farms)
Pond Meadow (Formerly Pond Lane)
A lot of land in East Granby has been set aside for recreation. And recreation in my case almost always means hiking. Notably, the Metacomet Trail cleaves the town along the prominent north/south ridgeline that shares the name of the trail. This page is not about that trail. Nor is it about the two decent town-owned properties (Cowles Park and East Granby Farms) with decent hiking. Many land trusts hold land with no easy or legal or worthwhile access, simply to protect that block of land. A noble pursuit, but certainly not something I need to explore.
Part 1 of these EGLT pages explored four of their properties I’d suggest you skip. This page will explore four of their properties that are a bit more worthwhile. As you’ll read, none are exactly showstoppers, but someone has put a decent amount of effort into them, and, well… whatever. Let’s get to ‘em.
Ian Clarke Preserve
This place is a perfect example of why it’s impossible to always stay on top of everything it is I do for CTMQ. Sure, I caught the name change from Newgate Farms to the Ian Clarke Preserve. That happened in mid-2018. This was done when Mr. Clarke retired from the EGLT board to honor his many years of service. Shout out to Ian Clarke.
But as I was poking around looking for why the name changed, I noticed that the EGLT has had a few work parties on the property, installing new bog bridges – and therefore making the trail a much more pleasant experience for future hikers. In other words, the trail has presumably been markedly improved since my visit in April 2019.
Furthermore, I know that work parties are planned for some of the also-ran EGLT trails in 2019 as well. But I’m comfortable with my hiking experiences being my point-in-time experiences and leaving it at that. Except when I simply can’t. Woe is me.
The preserve’s trailhead is on a suburban road and there is plenty of parking. The sign, placed high up on a white pine, is very nice. The trail, I found, could use some work. (See work party, above.) Still, I was actually a bit surprised that a trail existed here at all. This was my very first non-Metacomet East Granby hike and owing to its suburban-squeeze location and lack on online trail map, I wasn’t really expecting… anything really.
And while it’s clear very few make this trek – perhaps local dog walkers do – the trail was more or less cleared. Except where it wasn’t. (See work party, above.) Several boards were placed to help me navigate the wet areas, but after three months of rain in early 2019 in Connecticut, they didn’t really cut it. (See work party, above.)
The bigger question for the EGLT is… where does this trail go? My experience took me through a beautiful pine forest, across a marshy area, into another pine forest up to the border of the state-owned Newgate WMA and… that was it. I bumbled around for a while and found some deer trails and perhaps a hunter’s trail or two, but nothing worth pursuing.
But maybe that’s the point?
The trailed woods here are really quite stunning, and now that you’ll keep your feet dry (see work party, above), it’s worth a walk around if you have nothing better to do.
It just occurred to me that three of the four trails featured on this page are suburban trails. That is, they have trailheads across the street from residential homes. As with the Ian Clarke Preserve, I wasn’t expecting much here. Especially when I parked and noticed that I’d have to traverse a side yard to get going. I never like doing that, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
So I did.
The trail took me into the young woods straight to a left-right split. The trail forms a loop around a fairly unexciting pond that is being overtaken by phragmites. There are a ton of birds at the far end of the property, which is always nice. That’s pretty much all that’s going on here.
Which makes the fact that it is a very well-cleared and cared for trail a little bit weird. It’s clear that someone gets through here fairly regularly and not only trims back the brush and invasives, but also clears treefall and repairs the bog bridges and whatnot.
A kind neighbor? A Boy Scout troop? An industrious beaver?
Whoever it is, hats off to them for making this 12-minute jaunt around a stagnant suburban pond more enjoyable than I thought it would be.
This one takes some effort. The trailhead is along the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, the 84-mile multi-use path from Northampton, MA to New Haven. Granted, if you park at the access lot on Copper Hill Road, it’s only a pleasant half-mile walk or so to the trailhead.
There is a bench marking the trail and even an EGLT sign. I was with Calvin on a bike ride when I had a chance to check this property out, so I let him rest on the bench while I ambled around the Great Marsh Loop.
If you ever come through here, you’ll surely notice the deep, tall, impressive stand of white pines out on the bike path. The trail goes through something the land trust calls “the pine bowl” and they seem very excited about it.
It’s a depression in the land filled with years of pine needles surrounded by pine trees. Almost the entire path through here is cushioned by beds of pine needles. It’s all very pleasant.
Oddly, there aren’t too many great views of the Great Marsh. I don’t know if people ride their bikes here and just leave them out at the bench but I’d guess not… the world being what it is and all. Stupid thieving world.
We’ve arrived at our final “OK East Granby Land Trust Trail” destination: Pond Meadow. What is Pond Meadow? Pond Meadow is a short little trail around another little pond alongside a suburban road. Its existence is owed to the pond, because developers couldn’t built houses on the pond or the surrounding wetland.
As per EGLT-usual, there’s a nice sign and a memorial bench near the pond. This bench is the Tom Howard bench, and it’s a nice bench in memory of a nice guy:
Thomas taught history at Suffield High School for 33 years and was very active in his community. He served as Regional Executive Vice President of the Jaycees and served with the Democratic Town Committee in Windsor Locks and in East Granby where he was chairman. He was President of the East Granby Land Trust and was instrumental in its reactivation, and twice served as President of the East Granby Historical Society. He was Chairman of the Historical Society’s committee responsible for the renovation of the old stagecoach and he and his wife assisted in the restoration of the historical Small Pox Cemetery in East Granby.
The trail here is wide and mowed. This trail is definitely a dog walker’s trail. Surely 99% of its walkers live on the road I along which I parked who do a loop walk with their pooches here. Which is all well and good.
There’s a little bridge to cross the little stream that feeds (drains?) the pond. I found a side trail that took me over towards some houses – which I can’t really recommend. However, year after year, the EGLT puts on a “Fairy House” building workshop and then brings kids out into these easily accessible woods to place their houses. Evidence remains:
Not sure you need to go find this too, but hey, maybe you’re totally into this stuff. As for me, I had seen enough and completed the trail around the pond. It took me back out to the road and alongside the pond.
Whereupon I saw a painted turtle chilling out. While this may seem like a silly little group of East Granby hikes – and it kind of is – I enjoyed each one for what it was. So I did a little fairy dance as I made my way back to my car.